By: Mary Lu Laffey
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
This familiar quote, attributed to 20th-century American actor and humorist Will Rogers by Forbes.com, is tailor-made for the group tour industry. Guests returning to a destination or attraction because of a previous tour do so because of a favorable first impression.
The intention to return is influenced by the image that members of a group tour form in their minds both before departure (expectations) and since returning home (experience) from a destination, according to an abstract distributed by EBSCO Host Connection. And tour participants who sign up for the same or similar tour a second time are even more likely to return a third and fourth.
This doesn’t surprise Lindsey Beasley, director of tourism sales at Visit Rapid City in Rapid City, S.D. “Tour operators who have returning clients say they love coming back to our area because we are so friendly,” she said. “And they want to visit certain attractions again or eat at their favorite restaurant.”
Some of the must-sees that keep groups coming back for more at this ABA member include Mt. Rushmore, Main Street Square, Chapel in the Hills, City of Presidents, Memorial Park, and Art Alley. One of Beasley’s favorite tours that leaves a great lasting impression on visitors (and is ideal for soft-adventure groups seeking a singular experience) is the annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup.
“While we see many groups coming back wanting to see everything again, we will also let the tour operators know if something new has been added to an attraction that we think their group might like,” Beasley said.
She also cautions tour operators to make certain to plan enough time at each stop. Travel is about getting to know new places, experiencing new things, and meeting new people. By giving visitors the time they need to take a snapshot in their mind, you give them that memorable experience that makes them want to come back for more.
Mary Lu Laffey is a freelancer travel journalist who specializes in group and tour travel.